Higher Education Case Study

Background – A college was concerned about retention of first-generation college students.

Challenges/Objectives – The school had decided to allocate significant budget resources to increase the retention of first-generation students. Other than anecdotal evidence, there was no research to support the belief that retention rates were lower.

Strategy/Plan – We developed a metric to compare the trajectories of first-generation students to other students over time. We presented the results to show precisely how successive entry cohorts had done over the previous six years. The key result was showing that retention had been improving over time for all students and that the risk of non-retention for first-generation students had been falling over time, even without the proposed special program to increase retention.

Outcomes – We helped the college deans understand the historical trends in quantitative terms. Each college could customize its retention programs to various kinds of student groups without over allocating resources to first-generation students as that process was improving naturally over time.